Thai troops opened fire on “Red Shirt” protesters on Wednesday during a tense confrontation on a highway in Bangkok’s northern suburbs that left one soldier dead and 18 people injured.
The demonstrators hurled rocks at soldiers and police who had blocked their convoy on a major road heading out of the city centre, where they have been holding rallies for weeks in a bid to overthrow the government.
Troops responded by firing into the air and also directly at the Red Shirts as the standoff between the two sides spilled over from the protesters’ fortified rally base in the capital’s commercial heart. It was the latest bout of bloodshed in the Thai capital, where 27 people have died and almost 1,000 have been injured this month in the country’s worst political violence in almost two decades. It was unclear whether troops were using live ammunition but the army has warned protesters they could face real bullets in any clashes. Officials said earlier that police and soldiers had fired warning shots.
One soldier died instantly from a gunshot wound to the head during the clashes.
The Reds — who want immediate elections to replace Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government — accused troops of using “war weapons” against the protesters, and said the soldier was a victim of friendly fire.
“He was shot by people on the same side as him,” protest leader Jatuporn Prompan told AFP. The clashes erupted in the north of the capital near Bangkok’s number two airport Don Mueang International, which is about 25 kilometres from the main rally site and mostly handles charter and domestic flights.
About 2,000 protesters had earlier moved out of their sprawling rally site in pick-up trucks and on motorcycles to travel to the north of the capital, which is under a state of emergency.
“It looks like a war. They are fighting with unarmed people,” another protest leader Nattawut Saikuar said from a stage at the site in Bangkok’s commercial district that has become the focus of the weeks-long rallies. afp